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Lagavulin 50 Years Old 1966 Vintage

DNA of Islay

5 10100

@MaltActivistReview by @MaltActivist

21st Dec 2016


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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I’ve decided not to score this. Only because I will cheapen the memories by assigning it a score. And since there is no way anyone is ever going to drink this whisky a score is pretty much moot.

And don’t get me wrong. The only reason you’ll never be able to drink this is because it will never go up for sale and we pretty much scraped the bottom of the barrel to bring out a few drams to taste. It’s all gone.

OK let me start from the beginning.

I was in the midst of an extremely impromptu trip to Islay thanks to the persistent arm-twisting of my good friend Curt Robinson of AllThingsWhisky fame. He and three of his buddies had made the trip over from Canada and it just seemed like too good of an opportunity to share drams to pass up.

So there I was.

One of the things we were really looking forward to on the trip was the famed warehouse tasting with Lagavulin legend Iain Macarthur. Let me tell you if there’s one thing you do on Islay is attend one of his tastings. Regardless of the fact that we tasted some ridiculously gorgeous single casks ranging from twelve to 34 years it was his company and delivery that really made the session unforgettable.

Amid all the chatter and pouring of whiskies I happened to notice a lone cask sitting in the corner with 1966 stencilled on the side.

1966? Why, that must mean there’s 50 year old whisky sitting inside that dinosaur! I was completely distracted now, stealing sidelong glances at the cask much like a middle-school nerd would do to his crush in the school cafeteria. I kept wondering how it would taste. What would the color be like. What would it smell like.

As the session ended we tried hanging around for a bit but were politely asked to make space for the next group. My heart sank. There went my opportunity to beg Iain for a sip of that 50 year old. Oh, well. It would have made for a great story.

After the tasting we made our way behind the distillery to the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle to share some pre-packaged drams. The weather was excellent and we even managed to spot a couple of playful seals in the water.

As we headed back to catch the bus we, as luck would have it, ran into Iain as he was making his way back from another warehouse tasting.

What are you boys still hanging around here for? He asked in his strangely endearing high pitched Scottish voice.

We were hoping you’d share some of that 50 year old with us. I said shamelessly.

It took him all of one second to say Well, hurry up then! Your bus will be here any minute!

And with that, glasses in hand, we made a mad dash to the warehouse. Grabbing a valinche he plunged it into the depths of the cask and drew out 50 years of history and generously poured it into our glasses.

Happy now? He asked with a huge grin on his face.

We nodded vigorously with even bigger grins on ours.

Unfortunately we couldn’t drink it at the distillery or I would have missed the last bus back to Bowmore and consequently my flight back home.

As we sat on the bus sharing 50 year old whisky among us I was struck by the absurdity of it all. Here in our hands was almost priceless liquid, a piece of history and it was just casually shared with us by the nicest of chaps. And the fact that we were passing it around whilst using public transport seemed like the most natural thing to do. Such is the DNA of Islay. It’s what makes it what it is.

There is no ABV on this liquid. I suspect the cask was a second or third fill bourbon given it’s rather pale coloring.

Nose: Quite sweet thanks to the 50 years. Creme caramel. Toffee. Condensed milk. Spent sugarcane bark. The tiniest and I mean the tiniest of oak. Vanilla. High pitched aromas of milk chocolate. As it settles it becomes more grassy. More wet. More clay like. Red clay if you ask me. Still has some vibrancy after all these years.

Palate: Sweet. White granulated sugar. Mildest of oaks. The tiniest whisp of smoke. Milk chocolate. Hint of spice. Some fennel. Some cloves. Some aniseed. Dry spices. Changed nicely mid-palate without even us noticing.

Finish: Wonderfully long. Drying with some oak.

Overall Comments: How this spirit managed to retain it’s flavours is beyond me. It should have been tired and spent a long time ago but against all odds it’s not. I believe it might have been an absolute corker had it been discovered a decade or more earlier. But I’m glad it didn’t or we wouldn’t have been lucky enough to get free pours of it that fateful day on Islay. Here’s to you Curt, Steve, Danny & Tone.

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Alexsweden commented

Sounds like a magical time!

6 months ago 0

Alexsweden commented

Amazing that the whisky kept for 50 years!

6 months ago 0

Ol_Jas commented

Yeah, it sounds OK. I guess.

6 months ago 0

Nock commented

Priceless is correct! Considering what the 25yo and 37yo go for . . . I am shocked you got to taste it, and far beyond jealous!

Congrats! Sounds like quite the tasting trip - Ardbeg 21yo, Lagavulin 1966 . . .

6 months ago 0

Pierre_W commented

I vividly remember the warehouse tasting I attended with Iain in October 2015. I happened to be in the same group with a group of whisky geeks from Denmark who appeared to be old friends with Iain. Or let's say they had not met him for the first time. It was fun to watch them as they kept teasing each other and at one point Iain took a handful from the valinch and rubbed it onto the head of the group's spokesman - who was bald. Anyway, as we got towards the end of the tasting the Danish guys started begging for a few drops from cask #552, the famous cask that was filled in 1966. Iain promptly complied and returned with the valinch filled to the top. Everyone of the group got a healthy sample - it was divine. I keep asking myself why they never decided to bottle this as a 50-year old in 2016. Not that I mind though... :-)

6 months ago 1Who liked this?

Victor commented

@Pierre_W, lovely experience! It is heart-warming to read that some of us are still having the opportunity to have whisky experiences like yours.

6 months ago 2Who liked this?

Pierre_W commented

Thanks, @Victor, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I suppose. It was a memorable tasting, one that I shall never forget. I am aware that this might sound pathetic, and I never became a big fan of Lagavulin 16yo, but everything at cask strength that Iain shared with us was superb. I guess you need to have been there to believe it. Sitting in a musky dunnage warehouse surrounded by ancient casks you feel feels like a surreal thing. I wonder what @MaltActivist would say to this.

6 months ago 1Who liked this?

MaltActivist commented

@Pierre_W Good to hear you also got to experience the fantastic generosity of Ian Macarthur. You're right - it's absolutely a surreal experience. That cold and musty warehouse, drinking cask strength whiskies and, above all, being among friends.

I am attaching a picture of the cask strength whiskies we had that day. My pick of the lot was the 23 year old.

5 months ago 2Who liked this?

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Pierre_W commented

That is a nice list, @MaltActivist. I enclose the one we had in October 2015.

5 months ago 2Who liked this?

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MaltActivist commented

@Pierre_W That's quite interesting. Seems like we drank from pretty much the same casks. The years are all the same. The ages just a year apart. And if you look at the ABV they are 0.2% apart in all cases.

Doesn't need a detective.

5 months ago 1Who liked this?

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